Implicit Religion, Vol 15, No 4 (2012)

The Concepts of Implicit and Non-Institutional Religion: Theoretical Implications

Malcolm B. Hamilton
Issued Date: 19 Feb 2013


If man is an animal religiosum this suggests that religion is rooted in evolved cognitive and emotional structures of the human brain and mind. Although obviously a cultural system, which takes extraordinarily varied form across different cultures, the application of evolutionary theory and evolutionary psychology to the understanding and explanation of religion, which has become increasingly prevalent in the last decade or so, is potentially a fruitful line of investigation. Rather than religion involving the transcending of our biological nature, as Luckmann argued, this approach would see religion as rooted in that biological nature. There are two rather different stances within evolutionary psychology, namely that which sees religion as a by-product of otherwise adaptive traits, and that which sees religion as itself adaptive, either at the individual or at the social level. These may have rather different implications for the concepts of implicit and non-institutional religion. These concepts might seem to relate more closely to more fundamental cognitive proclivities, rather than to socially adaptive and, consequently, institutionalized forms. The study of implicit and non-institutional forms of religion might thus throw considerable light on such deeply rooted factors. Here a number of fundamental cognitive mechanisms that may be relevant for the concepts of implicit and non-institutionalized religion are briefly examined. From this it is concluded that it may be time to discard a unitary definition of religion as such and concentrate instead on those diverse aspects of what has for so long inevitably defied attempts at coherent definition.

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DOI: 10.1558/imre.v15i4.523


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